John Kerrigan

John Kerrigan is a professor of English at Cambridge and a convener of the Cambridge Group for Irish Studies. His works include Shakespeare’s Binding Language, Revenge Tragedy: Aeschylus to Armageddon and Archipelagic English: Literature, History and Politics 1603-1707.

Wobbly, I am: Famous Seamus

John Kerrigan, 25 April 2024

Towards​ the end of 1997, Seamus Heaney wrote to his friend Derek Mahon from Magdalen College, Oxford. ‘Amigo, Here briefly, at the fall of the leaf,’ he began, archly but affably. ‘The deer-park misty, the choir angelic, the heart aswim.’ Mahon had just published The Yellow Book, a collection of long-lined, sophisticated poems steeped in Baudelaire and the fin de...

Getting the Ick: Consent in Shakespeare

John Kerrigan, 14 December 2023

How does​ Shakespeare look, after #MeToo and Black Lives Matter? Scenes of sexual coercion, from Richard III to Pericles, have become more immediate. In Measure for Measure, Isabella’s predicament – should she agree to sleep with Angelo, corrupt deputy to the Duke of Vienna, in order to save her brother from execution? – gets audiences on her side. Shakespeareans now...

Turning Wolfe Tone: A Third Way for Ireland

John Kerrigan, 20 October 2022

Kenneth Branagh​’s Belfast is set in the early months of the Troubles, in a mixed working-class district that is cleared of its Catholic residents by a loyalist mob. Paving stones are lifted to barricade the end of the street. Neighbourhood vigilantes are replaced by paramilitaries and the British army. Though the representation of events is spare and often stylised, the film catches...

Slavery and Revenge

John Kerrigan, 22 October 2020

In​ Mrs Flanigan’s Antigua and the Antiguans, published in 1844, we are told about a plantation overseer who acted against pilfering slaves. His rigour

caused him to be disliked, and determined one among them, more heartless, perhaps, than the rest, to undertake his destruction. On Christmas day, Mr Brown rode to … a neighbouring estate, and upon his return in the evening...

In​ the first book of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh, the heroine remembers her childhood. Orphaned in Italy and educated by her aunt in an English country house, she was given pious tracts to read, learned some algebra and embroidered a shepherdess who was

        lovelorn with pink eyes To match her shoes, when I mistook the silks;...

‘There is a touch​ of Shylock in this,’ John Kerrigan says of a moment in King Lear. There are touches of Shylock in many places outside The Merchant of Venice, and indeed outside...

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We never went on holiday to foreign countries when I was a child. Not to properly foreign ones, anyway. Although we lived on the South Coast, the family Hillman Minx would head not towards a...

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Getting Even

Adam Phillips, 19 September 1996

We wouldn’t think of anything as a tragedy if we did not have a deeply ingrained sense of order already there to be affronted. Tragedy in life, and as art, exposes by violation our mostly...

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Art of Embarrassment

A.D. Nuttall, 18 August 1994

Humane, learned, un-showily stylish and at times moving in their tender intelligence, these essays by Anne Barton, ranging from a richly ‘mellow’ piece first published in 1953 –...

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Mrs Shakespeare

Barbara Everett, 18 December 1986

It may be assumed that the Dark Lady and the Fair Young Man are at least in part merely Anne Hathaway: a woman seen in darkness and in light, masked and unmasked, always a shadowy haunter of the poet’s...

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